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Literacy Assembled as Global in ILSAs

The Danger of a Single Story

Camilla Addey

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Camilla Addey, Literacy Assembled as Global in ILSAs (04.03.2021), Beltz Juventa, 69469 Weinheim, ISSN: 0514-2717, 2021 #1, S.153

Getrackt seit 05/2018

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Beschreibung / Abstract

This paper seeks to understand how literacy is operationalized in International Large-Scale Assessments (ILSAs) and how this has transformed the way literacy is now conceptualised. Although there was a shift in the 1980s away from literacy understood as autonomous from its social context to an understanding of literacy as a social practice dependent on its social, cultural and institutional contexts of practice, this paper shows how ILSAs have brought an autonomous understanding of literacy back. Drawing on Science and Technology Studies and Adichie’s ‘The Danger of the Single Story’, this paper analyses the literacy assessment diagram – the backbone of OECD’s literacy assessment framework for ILSAs – which describes the logical steps through which literacy is made a quantifiable fact. The paper shows how literacy is organized, chosen, measured, made legitimate and interpreted inside the laboratory and then made to hold as it is returned to the big, wild world. The paper argues that the operationalization of literacy in ILSAs pays lip service to the social practice conceptualization of literacy and assembles a single story of literacy as global – a universal skill that is autonomous of all social, cultural and institutional contexts of practice. The parallels with Adichie’s story highlight the danger of this global, assembled literacy becoming the single framework of interpretation and action.

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